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Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol and breastfeeding

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After abstaining from alcohol throughout pregnancy, it’s not a surprise that one of the most frequently asked questions is “can I drink if I’m breastfeeding?”

The CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) states “Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. However, moderate alcohol consumption (up to 1 drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant.”

With this in mind, it’s important to know, the concentration of alcohol in your blood is the concentration of alcohol in your breastmilk.

This is because alcohol moves freely between your bloodstream into breastmilk, but it also moves freely back out of your breastmilk after the appropriate amount of time.

What do you need to know about alcohol and breastfeeding?

  • Alcohol will be in your breastmilk within 30-60 mins following consumption.
  • The more you drink, the longer the alcohol will stay in your system.
  • composition impacts how quickly you metabolise alcohol.
  • As a general rule, it takes women 2 hours to metabolise the alcohol from one standard drink.

Does alcohol help with breastmilk production?

You may have heard this theory in past, often from well-meaning family members.  Whilst we wish this were true, unfortunately no. Alcohol can actually inhibit breastmilk production due to:

  • Reduced hormonal response to breast stimulation
  • Decreased milk ejection reflex (let-downs)

Does the pump & dump method work?

I’m sure while planning to drink, you’ve contemplated the “pump & dump” method (expressing breastmilk and then throwing it away). However, pumping and dumping will NOT reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk. This is because alcohol is not ‘stored’ in breastmilk, it is a direct reflection of the alcohol concentration in your bloodstream. Only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk.

The key considerations for alcohol and breastfeeding

It is (of course) better not to consume alcohol if breastfeeding.

However, if you are going to drink alcohol, drink in moderation, and allow 2-3 hours per standard drink before breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Alcohol and Breastfeeding. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/alcohol.html> [Accessed 23 September 2021].

D’apolito, K., 2013. Breastfeeding and Substance Abuse. Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology, 56(1), pp.202-211.

Giglia, R., 2010. Alcohol and lactation: An updated systematic review. Nutrition & Dietetics, 67(4), pp.237-243.

Haastrup, M., Pottegård, A. and Damkier, P., 2013. Alcohol and Breastfeeding. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 114(2), pp.168-173.

May, P., Hasken, J., Blankenship, J., Marais, A., Joubert, B., Cloete, M., de Vries, M., Barnard, R., Botha, I., Roux, S., Doms, C., Gossage, J., Kalberg, W., Buckley, D., Robinson, L., Adnams, C., Manning, M., Parry, C., Hoyme, H., Tabachnick, B. and Seedat, S., 2016. Breastfeeding and maternal alcohol use: Prevalence and effects on child outcomes and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Reproductive Toxicology, 63, pp.13-21.

Reece-Stremtan, S. and Marinelli, K., 2015. ABM Clinical Protocol #21: Guidelines for Breastfeeding and Substance Use or Substance Use Disorder, Revised 2015. Breastfeeding Medicine, 10(3), pp.135-141.

Wilson, J., Tay, R., McCormack, C., Allsop, S., Najman, J., Burns, L., Olsson, C., Elliott, E., Jacobs, S., Mattick, R. and Hutchinson, D., 2017. Alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers: Frequency, correlates and infant outcomes. Drug and Alcohol Review, 36(5), pp.667-676.

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